Elder statesman, Chief Philip Asiodu, yesterday reflected on his relationship with his late colleague, Dr Ahmed Joda, describing him as a great Nigerian patriot who believed in the unity of Nigeria.
Joda, a renowned administrator, former Nigerian super permanent secretary and elder statesman, who rose through the administrative cadre of the Northern regional government and then the federal civil service to retire as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industries, died on Friday at the age of 91.
Asiodu, a retired federal permanent secretary, and the late Joda were among a group known as super permanent secretaries during the administration of General Yakubu Gowon.
Asiodu, 87, a renowned diplomat and bureaucrat, recalled how Joda and some other permanent secretaries from the North were advised by the secretary of the Northern region to work closely with him and Alison Ayida when they arrived in Lagos.
He also recalled the role he and Joda played during the civil war.
Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP Sunday, Asiodu said, “There is no doubt that Ahmed Joda was a great Nigerian patriot who believed much in the aim of keeping Nigeria united across the divides of religion and tribe and ethnic distinctions.
“He was a very great friend of mine, and even after we retired. I retired before him but we kept close contact. Anytime he came to Lagos State he saw me, he kept close contact.
“Of course, this goes back, since he first came to Lagos in 1967, when he was transferred from the Northern region service to the federal service, first as permanent secretary of the commission, later as education and lastly as ministry of industries.
“We worked closely as close friends, our families were friendly together and given the civil war, we traveled a lot abroad, trying to keep the vision which Gen Yakubu Gowon-led federal government at that time had of a united Nigeria.”
Asiodu however regretted that Nigeria suffered great degradation in the last 60 years because of the quota system which relegated meritocracy to the background.
He added that with education and good leadership, Nigeria should be a very significant power in the global setting.
Reflecting on how his generation saw Nigeria and the lessons that can be learnt going forward, the former minister of Petroleum said, “Personally, people like me in Lagos and many other parts of Nigeria, we grew up reading Zik’s Renaissant Africa, in which Nigeria will play a role as a vanguard of Africa Renaissance. Now as you know by accident of history, Nigeria with its over 200m people and with the extent of education and infrastructure we had special geographical location vis-a-vis the rest of the world, it’s about the only black controlled country which has the possibilities of global significance.
“There, we were joined together by the British if you like, but even before then, the Yoruba were as far away as Porto Novo and the Benin Empire too. But colonialism and slave trade prevented the natural expansion of these empires. And so we were divided up after the Berlin Conference in 1885 of the European powers, dividing Africa up into a sphere of influence and Nigeria happened to fall under the British sphere of influence.
“Be that as it may, the British left us a united country. We are now 200million people, the most populous country in Africa and perhaps the 8th most populous in the world. We are blessed by God enormously with all possible resources for rapid economic development, whether it is agriculture, arable land we have; industries, all the basic minerals we have; iron and steel precious minerals. And then in terms of energy, we outside South Africa, the only county with coal and our coal is sulphur-free and apart from coal and oil, fossil energy, we have infinite resources of solar energy for solar power.
“We also have enormous hydro power. So with education and good leadership we should be a very significant power in the global setting.”
Asiodu further recalled that when he, Joda and others became federal permanent secretaries, they were made to swear an oath to defend the constitution and the unity of the country, which he said explains why the First Republic leaders were always able to reach a compromise no matter the differences they had.
He continued: “When we became federal perm secs we swore to an oath to defend the constitution, unity of Nigeria and I must say that the First Republic leaders whatever differences they had they were always able to reach a compromise. And they really believed in Nigeria being united. And we could see the advantages of Nigeria being united which if anything has grown and become most important because we now have China emerging in the next decade as the most important economic entity with 1.4billion people. There is India with 1.2billion people, the United States with over 300million and Brazil. And only Africa remains clearly undeveloped, and if you like it except for Nigeria or one or two places, extremely atomized.
“So we didn’t believe that it would first serve Nigeria and secondly the black race for us not to try to build on this accident of colonialism if you like, to have an entity that will be globally significant. So when the challenges of the crisis of the civil war came, those of us who are faithful to our oath which we have sworn to protect the unity and constitution of Nigeria, our duty was clear. We have worked with Nigerian leaders after Independence who believed in that and tried their best to drive development.
“Now, coming from the North, when you were appointed perm sec, you know you had a lot to learn and he (Joda) was told by the secretary of the Northern region that ‘when you get to Lagos, look for one or two people; Alison Ayida and myself were the people, and stay close to them’. Joda and others came. They were challenged but they rose to the challenge.
“When you now compare that scenario with what happened after 1975 when we descended into this extremely mechanistic type of quota where you may not be the best but because it is the turn of your state. Once you abandon the merit driven-system, meritocracy will decline; and we have suffered a great degradation over the last 50 to 60 years.”
Why They Called Him Super Permanent Secretary – Prof Mora
Meanwhile, another close ally of the late Ahmed Joda, Professor Ahmed Tijjani Mora, has explained why Ahmed Joda, was called a super permanent secretary like some of his contemporaries.
He said the late elder statesman was a true Nigerian patriot who was very passionate about a strong and united Nigeria and what needed to be done in the area of education.
“Permanent Secretary par excellence, Mallam Ahmed Joda followed up on that slogan and made it a reality for a better Nigeria. A true patriot he was, and there was absolutely no pretense about that,” Mora stated in a tribute he sent to LEADERSHIP Sunday yesterday.
Professor Mora further noted that Joda was called a super permanent secretary because it was when he was a federal permanent secretary in the federal ministry of Education during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon that the Federal Government Colleges were established in Nigeria as his initiative in an attempt to improve national integration in the aftermath of the civil war.
He noted: “Another attribute of the late Mallam Ahmed Joda that cannot be taken away was his passion for a strong Nigeria, and always educating me on what we needed to do as Northerners to catch up with the rest of Nigeria in the field of education- Primary, Secondary and Tertiary.
“It was while he was a Federal Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education during the Military Regime of His Excellency General Yakubu Gowon that the Federal Government Colleges were established in Nigeria as his initiative in an attempt to improve national integration especially as an aftermath of the Civil War which was won by the Federal Armed Forces and the Military Government under Gen Gowon in its characteristic humility aimed at national re-integration of all citizens declared-“No Victor, No Vanquished.
“May Allah (SwT) forgive his shortcomings, reward his many good deeds abundantly and with a special place in Al-Jannah Firdausi amin,” he prayed.
More Tributes Pour In For Joda As Lawan, Governors, Others Extol His Virtues
Meanwhile, more tributes have continued to trickle in for the late Ahmed Joda as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; the president of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan; state governors and other eminent Nigerians yesterday extoled the virtues of the former super permanent secretary.
Osinbajo described the late Joda as an “exceptional statesman, committed patriot, outstanding technocrat and bridge builder.”
In a statement he signed personally, the VP said he will greatly miss Joda’s “profoundly wise counsel on a wide variety of economic and social issues.”
He stated: “I join the President in expressing sincere condolence to the family and associates of an exceptional statesman, committed patriot, outstanding technocrat and bridge builder: Alhaji Ahmed Joda.
“I will greatly miss his profoundly wise counsel on a wide variety of economic and social issues. We have lost a passionate believer in a nation, where all, regardless of faith or ethnicity can live together and achieve their dreams in peace.
We pray that the Lord will comfort his family, associates and the people of Adamawa State from whence he hailed. May his memory always remain blessed.”
On his part, Senate President Lawan commiserated with the family of the deceased, saying even though Nigerians would miss him greatly, they will never forget his meritorious service to the country.
Lawan, in a statement by his special adviser on media, Mr Ola Awoniyi, condoled with the government and people of Adamawa State over the demise of the late Joda who he described as ‘a great indigene of the state and accomplished citizen of Nigeria’.
He said, “Alhaji Joda was an administrator par excellence, who, all through his long and fulfilled life, served our dear country, Nigeria with distinction.
“His contributions to public administration will remain indelible in the history of the Nigerian public service and bureaucracy.
“One of the last remarkable services of Alhaji Joda was his contribution to the take-off, in 2015, of the President Muhammadu Buhari- led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, as the Chairman of the Transition Committee that “While we will miss his wealth of experience, we can never forget his meritorious service to our dear country,” Lawan said.
He prayed that Allah accepts his soul into Aljannat Fidaus and grant his family the fortitude to bear the immense loss.
His Demise, A Great National Loss – Gombe Governor
For Gombe State governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, the death of the late elder statesman and former federal permanent secretary is a great national loss coming at a time the country is in dire need of his wise guidance and counsel.
The governor stated this when he paid a condolence visit to the family of Joda in Yola, Adamawa State.
Governor Yahaya, in company of the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr Mele Kyari, paid tribute to the late nonagenarian whom he described as a patriot who served Nigeria meritoriously in different positions and left behind indelible marks.
He conveyed his deepest condolences to the family of the bereaved as well as the government and people of Adamawa State over the huge loss, just as he prayed Almighty Allah to grant the deceased Aljannat Firdaus.
Ahmed Joda Died Serving Humanity — Jigawa Governor
Also, Governor Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa State said as a seasoned administrator and elder statesman, Joda who excelled in both his public and private lives died in the service of humanity.
In a statement signed by his special adviser on media and public relations, Alhaji Habibu Kila Badaru, the Jigawa governor commiserated with the government and people of Adamawa state over the death of the elder statesman.
The governor pointed out that Joda who chaired the transition committee that ushered in President Muhammad Buhari’s administration in 2015 was one of the finest public servants the nation had ever produced.
Fulani Socio Cultural Group Vows To Promote His Legacies
Pastoral Reserve (PARE), the fulani socio-cultural organisation, announced its plan to sustain and promote the legacies of its founding President, the late Ahmed Joda.
Executive director of the group, Mallam Sale Momale, in an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday at the residence of the late elder statesman in Yola yesterday, said the deceased’s speeches and actions as founding father would be preserved.
Describing him as a detribalised leader the country ever had, Momale said, “We will properly document his speeches and actions for posterity. Joda’s wisdom and knowledge during his lifetime would also be utilised.
“Happily, he was able to train so many of us; it is our responsibility to aspire and emulate his actions to keep Nigeria in peace.”
Momale added that the late super permanent secretary was a rare breed who rose through the ranks as a young man, guiding the development and posterity aspects of national development.
Joda’s Effort In Birthing Nigerian Economic Summit Will Never Be Forgotten Group – NESG
Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has commiserated with the family of the late Alhaji Ahmed Joda over the passing away of the elder statesman.
A statement issued by NESG chairman, Asue Ighodalo, noted that the group would always remember the late elder statesman for his efforts which led to the birth of the group in 1993.
Ighodalo said, “We at NESG mourn the passing of Alhaji Ahmed Joda, a distinguished former Permanent Secretary, who was, for us, not just an elder statesman but also, a thought leader and founding father.
“His keen intellect and tireless efforts helped birth the Nigerian Economic Summit in 1993.
“Alhaji Joda was notable for his vision of a Nigeria without ethnic or religious bias; that is secure and prosperous. He contributed to this by leading tirelessly and serving passionately during his lifetime of service to the nation.
“At NESG, we rededicate ourselves to advancing that mandate in the national interest”.
Ighodalo added that the NESG would always be inspired by Joda’s forthrightness and doggedness in paving the way for a globally-competitive economy and business environment for Nigeria, despite the odds.
Nigeria Has Lost A Great Titan, Flour Mills Chairman Mourn
Also, the chairman, Board and Management of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc (FMN), John Coumantaros, described passage of the late Joda as the passage of a great titan.
Expressing his condolence in a statement, Coumantaros said Joda, a giant of Nigeria’s industry, would be remembered as an accomplished public servant, a mentor and charismatic leader, with an unwavering commitment and indelible contributions to the development of his fatherland.
Coumantaros said that many Nigerians in this generation and those to come, would remain indebted to his remarkable legacies and stewardship.
He said Joda was a former vice chairman and member of the FMN board of directors, from June 1978 to September 2012, adding that he was instrumental to the growth and success story of the group.
“We pray that God consoles his family and all others, who have been impacted by his demise.
“On behalf of the board of directors, management and staff of FMN, I express our profound condolences and grief to your family on the passing of your beloved father and patriarch, Joda, at a golden age.
“Joda was a visionary leader, teacher, statesman and father to many, including myself, who had the privilege of benefiting from his abundance of knowledge, during his lifetime.”